Where: South Bend, Indiana
Outlook: Clemson comes off playing Syracuse fairly tough on Sunday and has the quick turnaround to face the Irish. Ordinarily it would be another matchup with a Grant brother, but Jerian Grant was dismissed from the team earlier this year for an academic matter. He was having a great year averaging nearly 20 points a game, but the Irish still put a solid product on the floor with some good players and this game will be a tough one for sure. Don't be fooled by the Irish's record, almost every loss they have has been a close game and we know the Tigers are really having trouble generating the points so it is difficult to imagine Clemson running away from ND tonight.
Looking at the KenPom stats on Notre Dame, they have been pretty good at taking care of the ball and shooting it inside the arc. They are definitely a better shooting team than Clemson overall, which I know isn't say a whole lot, but again it will put pressure on the Tiger defense to be up to the challenge of contesting shots. Teams have really shot FT's well against Notre Dame this year, which is likely a reason they have come up short on so many close games. They are also giving up nearly 38% shooting from three by their opposition, so the chances should be there for Clemson to get some good looks from three and they need to finish. Though ND takes care of the ball, ranking 51st, they don't create turnovers that well ranking 350th in opposing turnover %. Turnovers have been problematic for the Tigers this year so hopefully this will mean fewer turnovers tonight.
Once again Clemson will be giving up some size at the 2 and the 4 spots, but in all respects this is shaping up to be a very even matchup. It will come down to execution and making good decisions with the ball on offense while playing the usual brand of Tiger defense on the other end and holding ND to 55 points or less. At this stage, I really feel uncomfortable with any game the Tigers are in getting much over 60 points. The lack of a consistent 2nd scoring option is the reason for this. It will be imperative for Roper or Blossomgame or Hall or Nnoko to provide a double figure scoring effort. If the Tigers can get three into double figures, I really like their chances tonight.
The ACC is really taking shape now, and Clemson and Notre Dame fall into that big middle pack who can beat any of the others on any given night. The upper echelon has begun to separate with the usual suspects of Duke, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and North Carolina. UVA has established itself as a major threat for the title. To me, finishing in the sixth slot would be a fantastic result for this year's team and one that is attainable. To do that, Clemson must find two more road wins and this is one they can reasonably get. The last two road games have been vast improvements over the massacres at Pitt and UNC. This is a sign that the team is figuring out playing true road games to a degree. However, all the worst performances of the year from this team have been in true road situations, including the loss at Auburn which haunts us still.
A win tonight would get us beyond the two win goal for the Road to Perdition and one that Clemson fans should be extremely thrilled to get. KenPom gives us a 48% chance to win the game.